Real Estate

A Fresh Look

Defining your personal style

Is your house full of things you love that don't seem to go together? Does your home lack a pulled-together, cohesive look? You may have tons of great furniture and artwork, but if you haven't spent time defining your personal style, you'll forever struggle with creating a home that is visually peaceful.

When you know your personal style, you'll stop making "wrong" purchases and you'll be able to create harmony in every room of your home. Here's how.

Every room conveys a message

Becoming aware of our home's personality involves observing each room's message, theme and color focus. Grab a pad of paper and a pencil and pick a room to start with. Take in the room as a whole and observe what it is "saying." Even though there are many objects in the space, you can usually sum up the room's "message" in a few words. Your living room might have an overall feeling of formality, tradition, antiquity or love of delicate objects. Your family room might express coziness, love of family and sports, comfort or informality. Your bedroom might be romantic, soft, dreamy, flowery, light-filled or peaceful. Jot down the feelings and phrases associated with each room.

This list of descriptors is a powerful tool. You can immediately begin removing objects which are not in harmony with the room's overall message. If your living room exudes an elegant, cool feel, your stuffed bunny, bowling trophy or antique teacup collection will not harmonize. When an accessory does not fit your list of descriptors put it in a room which shares its message, donate or store it. If you must keep it in the space, group it with similar objects in a bookcase or on an end table. If a major piece of furniture isn't working with the room's message, try switching it with something from another room, painting it, draping it with fabric or positioning it less prominently. If you can't substitute or disguise the piece, vow to replace it with something that works when you have the time and money to do so.

The theme's the glue

A room that looks and feels pulled together usually has a theme or style. This doesn't mean that all the furniture in the room has to be from a specific period or has to match in any way. The theme is an idea or the visual glue which helps everything in the room work together. Your theme may be a simple descriptor, such as "garden, Southwest, feminine, barnyard, anything handmade, whimsical, modern, seaside cottage, Zen-like, toys, jungle," etc.

Once you have established your theme, examine every object in the room to see if it fits with your theme. An Early American rocker will look out of place in a "retro" living room. A cubist Picasso print probably won't work in country kitchen. If it "fights" with your theme, remove it.

If you find that a room in your home doesn't have a theme, create one. Find at least two things in the space which have the same theme and build on them. Go on a treasure hunt throughout your house looking for decor with a similar flair. You'll be surprised how easy it is to find accessories sprinkled here and there which you can group together.

Consciously select, place color

Your personal style is also expressed in the colors you emphasize and how you place them throughout the space. A room without a scheme can be a chaotic jumble, whereas a room with carefully placed objects reflecting the room's predominant colors will help create balance and harmony. Make note of the one, two or three predominant colors in each room. (If there is no color with more importance than any other, establish a scheme to work toward). Check for the presence of each color in each quadrant of the room. Note where there is a lack of the color and find accessories in the missing color to place there. Add pillows or a throw to a chair, paint a flower pot to place on an end table, place a stack of books on the coffee table, position art on a plate stand or hang a tassel from a door knob use your creativity to spread color throughout the room. If major furnishings don't blend with the colors you've chosen, switch with pieces from another room, slipcover, paint or replace when you can.

Kit Davey, Allied Member A.S.I.D., is a Redwood City-based interior designer who uses what you already own to redecorate. Email her at or call her at 650-367-7370.

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